Two excellent comments arrived in response to Friday's "Two Links" post. Although they reach different conclusions, both are drawn from direct involvement:
From Darlene Almeda: "The commercial photography profession is in desperate need of a certification process much like other vocations. I have known this for decades and, in my opinion, the ease of digital erasing some of the technical necessities film had has only made this clearer.
"Recently I had a new-to-the-neighborhood neighbor approach me about my employment as a full time commercial photography instructor at a local vocational-tech school (post secondary). He said he did not think it was necessary to teach photography anymore since most everybody can do it with digital these days.
"I paused and smiled and asked him if he thought he could do it? He said he thought so. I asked him if he could photograph a six-hour wedding on Saturday and have the images ready for delivery on Wednesday. He stared intently and said he thought so....
"I said okay, let's talk about the wedding since I shot them for years and they are part of what I teach. This is a typical wedding and requires special event lighting, classic portrait lighting, multiple setups and backups, fashion quality formals (advertising usage in local magazine has been pre-planned), wedding directing experience, and a storybook approach to coverage.
"You developed the photography schedule, printed it and met with the bride-to-be a week before the wedding at the various locations to discuss what she should expect for her pictures and how the event will unfold.
"You have expert level Photoshop certification (not the high school level certification) and as soon as Adobe gets Lightroom CC to an expert level, you will pay to sit for that exam as well.
"Your Professional Photographers of America Certification (CPP) hangs in your sitting room and it took you five years to finally achieve it. Some of your art photography work is hanging in City Hall after the mayor's team has selected it for their conference room this year and you are waiting for a print that will hang at the airport for even more local coverage of your photographic artistry (lucky to have been chosen). You must advertise your work through as many art and business-related venues as possible so that your base price of $2,500 per wedding is well known, accepted, and will eventually become part of the wedding/special event carriage trade fabric in the area. Is your work good enough for this, I ask?
"After the Saturday wedding you are exhausted, but come Monday you have to start to work on the 600+ images, complete your sales tax for the month, process print orders, catch up on your Quick Books, and meet with a prospective client for a special event planned many months in the future after their workday is done.
"Now it is Tuesday and you have to get back to the 600+ images you must deliver finished tomorrow. But you have appointments, shipments, and more business to do. Looks like you'll be calling in for one of your part time assistants to see if they can help with the post-processing. After all, you know your clients are the reason your business continues to grow, so Wednesday is delivery day.
"You have two weddings this coming weekend and a couple of portrait sittings before then. Gear needs to be shipped out for repair and Fuji has a fire sale!
"My neighbor has embarrassed himself, but I assure him it is okay. (Just do not ask me to take pictures!)
"I love my job. I had four graduates in May (many do not complete the program). Derek got employed as a commercial photographer for an eCommerce company three weeks after graduation. BJ recently got hired as a part time portrait photographer for a studio business; Jamie's studio business began growing a year before graduation (two year program) and Tatyana works part time for herself as a portrait and food photographer while raising her children and helping her husband build his construction business.
"Believe me, there is a profession in photography if: you understand the business and run it as such; are consistently good in the technical and aesthetics of the profession; are people-oriented; and work very hard because your passion guides you.
"Now if the G-men would get the facts straight and turn photography into a reputable profession worthy of certification, it would benefit all involved.
"I have stepped off my soapbox. Thank you."
From s.wolters: "The financial crisis of 2008 also turned the world of visual communication into a slaughterhouse. The change of media from print to digital did the rest.
"I was lucky and sold my design business in time, but so many colleagues, photographers and illustrators et cetera that I worked with lost their work and had to start a different kind of business. But it’s not all sadness. I still have contact with three photographers I loved to work with.
"Photographer 1 once had an enormous photo studio. Large enough to store a lorry and he always had tons of advanced equipment. I used to hire him for technical work. He sold everything and now uses one camera for everything and does his post processing with his laptop at the kitchen table. He changed from commercial studio work to documentary, mainly for cultural clients. By working hard without having to pay assistants, and with overhead costs that are next to nothing, he still makes a good living. And he is much happier now.
"Photographer 2 always worked exclusively with 4x5 film. She excels at portraits. Sells her few long-lasting projects to galleries and international magazines.
She survived because instead of working local she now operates worldwide.
"Photographer 3 was the one I used to ask for difficult concepts. Annual reports mainly. He says that nowadays there are no such fat assignments anymore. He was lucky with one project that made him so famous that he sells his independent art photography all over the world now and he’s earning more than ever before.
"Don't believe that anyone who buys a DSLR can become a professional photographer, just as it is nonsense that anyone who learns desktop publishing will be a good designer. Free professions all right, but that does not make everyone professional. Malcolm Gladwell is probably right. To become good at something one needs talent and at least 10.000 hours of practice. That’s what schools are for. Giving people time to develop and stopping the ones without enough talent. It’s not about certificates, it’s about what you create. It’s much easier to find a good photographer or graphic designer than a good lawyer, doctor or cab driver."
When it comes to business, it's usually best to hear directly from people who have real-world experience. Thanks to Darr and s.wolters.
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Jayson Merryfield: "I'm going to buck the general trend here and mention my own thoughts as a part-time wedding and portrait photographer—the wedding situation that Darlene outlines above is (in my experience) an outlier. One that certainly does require a professional photographer of her caliber, but an outlier all the same, and I believe it to be an intentionally hyperbolic example of what a wedding photography client would demand and/or expect from a photographer.
"I don't know of any professional wedding photographers (local to myself anyways) who regularly turn around their wedding images in four days, and have never encountered a client who balked at my rough guideline of six weeks to deliver a client's images. That does not mean that these clients do not exist, but rather that they are far from the normal wedding client. I admit, my name does not circulate through the upper echelons of photography...but the majority of people who are getting married don't shop in that market either.
"Does enforced scarcity of photographers through a certification process ensure that all people wanting photographic services can obtain them at price points that are feasible and realistic? I meet with many young couples who are in love, wanting to be married, and who are struggling with the costs of getting married, and only want at the end of the day some good-looking pictures that are sufficiently professional looking, taken by someone who has a clue what they are doing. They don't need (and certainly can't afford) the uber-professional that Darlene has outlined above. And so, they contract themselves with less experience, less equipment, a smaller client roster, and longer delivery timelines, and with that accept the risks of paying less and potentially getting significantly less.
"I guess my overarching point being that, like the cameras that people use, the photography that the less-than-trained photographers Darlene describes has reached the point of sufficiency for a large part of the wedding market, for better or for worse.
"It's also worth mentioning that licensing laws and onerous certification processes aren't generally aimed at protecting clients from poor service providers, but more often work to protect existing service providers from competition, and that protectionist stance proportionately harms younger workers trying to get into a market."
John Robison: "I like dinking around with cameras but realized early on that going professional was way too much work. Reading Kirk Tuck's Visual Science Lab has reminded me just how much work. I think a large measure of his success is that he really does like his clients and gets to know them on a personal level; it's not just a show to get their business. Sure, he has the technical chops and art talent, but it is his basic personality that keeps his business going strong."
Steve D: "I'm conflicted on the certification theme.
"My profession is in high level three dimensional CADD (Computer Aided Drafting and Design)in Civil Engineering and BIM (building information management) fields. GIS [geographic information systems? Steve didn't define this one. —Ed.] is merging heavily with CAD and is a profession all it's own, but it's fantastic to know both. After 35 years I've done a lot of hiring and (with a few notable GIS-related exceptions) I don't put a lot of weight on certifications.
"If you've made it to the interview with me, the 'fundamentals' have been filtered through by HR (background checks, etc). I am not a tough interview. Sure I have expectations that are probably considered old fashioned by today's standards, like decent attire for the interview...and being a little early is always nice. Once settled in I probably come off as almost slow-pitch softball, but the truth is I'm really looking hard (I think of it as mining) for two qualities that are very hard to fake: real enthusiasm for the craft (do they think what they want to do is really cool or just a good-paying job...both are fine but the former is critical) and, most importantly, does their interest make them hungry to learn more, learn quickly, get their hands on the bigger more interesting projects, equipment etc.? And someday do they hope have my job?
"Honestly, and as hard as the industry keeps trying, I'm yet to see a certificate that can even hint at that."
Adrian Malloch: "These sort of discussions can best be cut down to size by using the 'Is it necessary or is it sufficient' argument. For example; a camera is necessary to be professional photographer, but not sufficient. Talent is necessary, but not sufficient. And so on with business acumen, marketing nous, curiosity, organisational skills, technical expertise, willingness to take creative risks, accounting skills, personal skills, and so forth. A certification process ought to be a necessary requirement, but by itself it is clearly not sufficient."